Two of the last remaining Tuskegee Airmen have died
One worked on planes that won the first Air Force Fighter Gunnery Meet competition while the other was Haiti's first combat fighter pilot.
Homer Hogues and Raymond Cassagnol, two of the last remaining Black military pilots and support personnel to train as part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, died in recent days.
Homer Hogues died on Tuesday, June 27 at the age of 96. His wife of 70 years, Mattie Bell Hogues, passed away two days earlier.
He was born in Texas on April 19, 1927, according to an obituary shared by his family. In 1946 he was drafted into the military, in the Army Air Corps (which would become the U.S. Air Force). He trained first in Texas before being assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, made up of Black service members. He worked on planes, including P-47 Thunderbolts. He was one of the mechanics with the Tuskegee Airmen when they won the first Air Force Fighter Gunnery Meet in Las Vegas in 1949. That same year he marched in President Harry S. Truman’s second inaugural parade; he would also participate in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade in 2012. He left the service in 1949 with the rank of staff sergeant.
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Black service members were barred from becoming pilots for years, until World War II. The Army Air Corps launched a program at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama. In addition to the pilots who took to the skies, Black service members trained at Tuskegee Army Airfield as mechanics, instructors and other support roles, from 1941-1946.
Despite his military experience, the racism of the 20th Century kept Hogues from working on airplanes in his civilian career. He spent nearly four decades working as a chrome plater on automobiles, retiring in 1995. He was active in Tuskegee veterans groups and advocacy for their history.
“Homer was soft spoken and kindhearted and loved by many,” Hogues’ obituary reads. “He spent a brief time in a nursing home but was blessed to return home with the assistance of various community and military groups.”
Another veteran of the Tuskegee Airmen program was Raymond Cassagnol, who died on Saturday, June 24 at the age of 102. A Haitian national, he was born Sept. 20, 1920, during the time of the American military’s occupation of Haiti. In 1942 he joined the Haitian military after seeing a call for airmen. A year later while working as an aircraft mechanic he was given a chance to become a pilot. He was one of three Haitians sent to Tuskegee to become the country’s first combat fighter pilots. While training he was roommates with Daniel Davis Jr., the first African- American four-star general.
While training in the United States he encountered Jim Crow policies. He later wrote in his memoir that he stayed close to the base to avoid encountering racists in the area. During the war, he trained pilots and flew patrol missions, spotting Nazi submarines around Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
After the war, Cassagnol returned to Haiti, becoming an entrepreneur and opposing dictator Francios “Papa Doc” Duvalier. He was forced to flee to the Dominican Republic, and eventually immigrated to the United States for his family’s safety. In 1969, while in the Dominican Republic, he flew a B-25 into Haiti, bombing Duvalier’s home although the dictator survived.
Cassagnol died at his home in Florida.
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